“I’ve had almost every board here you can have,” Turner said. “I’ve had an academic board, I’ve had a conduct board, I’ve had an aptitude board, I’ve had a P.E. board.”
Those problems were isolated to his first two years, and he had no trouble as a junior. But on the first day of preseason camp, Niumatalolo announced Turner failed a physical readiness test and would not join the team until classes started.
Turner said he “just got complacent,” and with the constant responsibilities of academy life lifted he took advantage of going home to Seattle and visiting with family and spending time with his girlfriend. Guarding against complacency was high on Niumatalolo’s list of concerns after a 5-7 season, and he was willing to gamble on losing one of his most experienced players.
“That was heavily on my mind,” Niumatalolo said. “I was taking a chance I might lose one of my best players. I agonized on that a little bit. I just felt like for our team, after last year, I wanted to send a strong message.”
Turner considering walking “many times” but ultimately set to work to pass the fitness test. He dropped 15 pounds, working out with his old high school coach (who had since relocated to Mount Airy, Md.) before rejoining the team in mid-August.
It was a difficult time, since Turner knew he was responsible for putting himself in a bad position. But hearing he was self-centered stung just as much.
“It hurt, especially when you’re out there blocking for these dudes all the time,” Turner said. “I got, what, last year — 14 catches in 12 games? You’re calling me selfish? I block for you on every single play and put my body on the line, and you’re calling me selfish. It was tough and a tough pill to swallow.”
What was far more important than Turner’s predicament was how he handled it. He checked in with assistant coach Mick Yokitis throughout his brief exile. After working his way back up the depth chart, he reclaimed a starting position in the season’s third game.
He’s played a crucial part in Navy’s turnaround from its first losing season in nine years and is in line to help the Mids win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 2009. As usual, he’ll do his part in his own unique way.
“He’s a good kid and he has a good family and they’re good people,” O'Rourke said. “They raised a good kid. He just wants to be a little different.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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